Aussies swim back into world reckoning
Australia, powered by sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell, beat the United States and Canada to win the women's 4x100 metres freestyle relay in world-record time yesterday morning (Singapore time), retaining the title they won in London four years ago.
The Australians, leading off with Emma McKeon and Brittany Elmslie swimming the second leg, clocked three minutes and 30.65 seconds, beating the old mark of 3:30.98 they set in Glasgow in 2014.
The US took silver and Canada bronze.
The medal came on top of a win for Mack Horton in the men's 400m freestyle and marked a dream start for the Australians after a disappointing London Olympics four years ago when they slumped to their worst medal haul in 20 years.
After one day of competition in the Rio pool, Australia have already doubled their tally of golds from London.
"Definitely my favourite race ever: in an Olympic final with my sister and two girls I have known since I was 12, 13 years old - and a gold and a world record," said Cate Campbell, who set the world record for the individual 100m freestyle last month.
"You can't ask for more. Every kid dreams of it, it's what we always hoped for."
The Australian women won by an emphatic 1.24 seconds from the American team of Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil, Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky.
The Americans had led at halfway, but Bronte Campbell overhauled Vollmer on the third leg and handed over a lead her sister never looked like surrendering to Ledecky.
Canada's Sandrine Mainville, Chantal Van Landeghem, Taylor Ruck and Penelope Oleksiak took the bronze ahead of London silver medallists Holland, who were anchored by triple Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
The Dutch team's third leg was swum by Inge Dekker, taking part in her fourth Olympics, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in February and underwent surgery in March.
Meanwhile, Horton ripped into Chinese giant Sun Yang for his doping record yesterday morning after robbing him of his Olympic men's 400 metres freestyle title.
Blinking shyly behind his spectacles, Horton added insult to injury as he backed up remarks he made earlier in the day with a pulsating victory in Rio.
Asked for his thoughts on doping violators Sun and South Korean Park Tae Hwan competing at the Games, Horton sniffed: "I don't have time or respect for drug cheats."
That prompted an outcry from Chinese journalists who sabotaged Horton's victory press conference demanding to know why he had used such frank language.
"I used the word 'drugs cheat' because he tested positive," replied Horton.
"It's not a question about me and Sun.
"I just have a problem with athletes who've tested positive and are still competing."
The row overshadowed a race that had everything - lead changes galore and a thunderous finish,
Horton refusing to flinch as he won by a fingertip, edging Sun to win by just 0.13 seconds in a time of 3:41.55.
Italy's Gabriele Detti roared home in the final 50 metres to capture bronze in 3:43.49 but the race merely proved to be the "amuse bouche" to the verbal skirmishes that followed.
"That last 50m, I was kind of thinking about what I said and was like, 'If he gets me here, it's not going to look great', so I really didn't have a choice but to beat him," grinned Horton, savouring his victory over Sun.
Typically, however, swimming's "enfant terrible" did not take Horton's criticism lying down, snapping back: "I don't care too much what the Australian athlete says.
"I don't have to prove myself to anyone."
Sun, who had burst into tears when talking to Chinese reporters immediately after the race, insisted he had nothing to hide.
"I'm clean," he growled. "I've done everything it takes to prove I'm clean.
"I don't owe any more explanations.
"All countries have their own internal affairs and all athletes deserve respect."
- Wire Services.
You can’t ask for more. Every kid dreams of it, it’s what we always hoped for.
- Bronte Campbell, a member of Australia’s winning 4x100m freestyle relay team